THE LORD'S WORK IN MANCHESTER
FROM REV T H GILL
RECTOR OF WHALLEY RANGE
I have been requested by the editor of the Christian to contribute a paper respecting the work of Messrs Moody and Sankey in Manchester. I comply with the request willingly; the more so, perhaps, because I was one of those, who before the visit of the American evangelist to our city, had my misgivings about the work. With any and every real work, I have always endeavoured to the best of my ability, to sympathise, and where possible to cooperate. And the question with me concerning this particular work was, is it real! Some declared that it would all prove evanescent; that sudden, spasmodic, and fitful action in the church, is invariably succeeded by langour and deadness. Some decried any irregular work; some denounced all excitement; some rebelled against the idea of two men coming from America to evangelise England. For myself, I cared little for any of these things. I felt certain, as I feel now, that – whether the work were regular or irregular, spasmodic or continuous, whether accompanied by some excitement, or not, and whether the workers were American or English – if the work were real, in other words, if the men were genuine and the words of their mouth the truth of God, then that God's blessing would rest on their labours and their work abide.
With these feelings, I went to the Free Trade Hall. The first meeting did not convince me. I went again and again and again. Each time I was more satisfied, and I have now no hesitation in avowing my conviction that the men have been raised up of God to do a marvellous work, and I would just venture, in passing, to say to those who have not yet heard them, don’t form your judgement upon a single hearing. There are special reasons in this case why you should not do so. We are all more or less prejudiced against the men. They’re American: this is against them. Then Mr Moody is not what the world calls an educated man; his diction is not elegant; his style is thoroughly homely, colloquial, familiar; it is too unmistakably American; this is against him. Then his utterance is rapid and until you get accustomed to his voice you lose much of what he says if at a distance from him. Then he uses exceedingly plain language; he comes directly to the point and thrusts home hard and fast. This, with the world, is against him. Yet, notwithstanding all this, there is that in the men, if you give them a fair hearing, which carries you out of and over and above all these drawbacks until you are thoroughly delighted with them. As you listen and watch, you cannot resist – even the man of the world has been unable to resist, the conviction that the men are thoroughly in earnest, that they are "real." This was testified in a remarkable manner recently, in one of our theatres. Mr Moody has never spared the theatre; day after day, in the most uncompromising terms, he denounced it. Yet, when an actor ventured to apply to him, the epithets of "sham" and "cant," the enraged audience would not rest until they had hissed the man off the stage. Manchester is convinced that the men are "real," and in that one word I would find, humanly speaking, the secret of their success. There is no conventionality about them; no artificiality. There is an utter absence of all unreality, no trace of affection, no assumption, but that which comes of a thoroughgoing belief in the message and their work, nothing put on. There is neither self-consciousness on the one hand, nor timidity on the other. Their behaviour is that of men who have a work to do, and who are conscious of no reasons whatever – no impediments, whether in themselves or arising from their audience – why they should not do it.
Yes, it would be a mistake to suppose there are no human elements of attraction in the movement. Mr Moody has undoubtedly many of the necessary qualifications for an orator. His diction may be rough, his grammar faulty, but his words of full of life; they burn; they bite, they go home. Illustrations are abundant and apt. He tells the story admirably. He complies with the requirement of "if you want me to weep you must first weep yourself" But in so doing he still seems to be genuine, his tones sink, his voice trembles, but you are convinced that it is because he feels what he is narrating. Then he is master of the subject; he is mighty in the Scriptures. He provides too a platform for the degraded, the self-condemned, the lost, such as they really find elsewhere. He extends a warm strong, loving hand to the poor outcast in a manner that can scarce fail to attract, to beget confidence and inspire, with hope. And, lastly, you have the attraction which always resides in earnestness. Earnestness, even in a questionable cause attracts; much more in a good one. And the sight of men, labouring three or four times a day, morning, noon, and night, and week after week – not from the love of greed, but from the love of souls – is almost irresistibly attractive. Mr Sankey's singing too is very enjoyable. Possessed naturally of a voice of great power and compass, and having a most distinct annunciation, his singing, if lacking culture, is yet exceedingly attractive.
But when we have said all that can be said, for the human elements of attraction, we feel that they are actively insufficient to account for the success of the movement. When we have exhausted the whole catalogue of reasons which have been given for the flocking, during the past three or four weeks, of thousands and tens of thousands of all classes, to the great halls of our city, we feel that the matter is yet unexplained. Had we been told a short time since that an angel from heaven would draw four or five thousand Manchester folk daily to morning and afternoon religious meetings, and that for weeks together, we should have doubted it. The only intelligible explanation of the phenomenon we have witnessed is this, that is it is God’s doing. To this, we are shut up, and this I do not hesitate to avow in my own conviction. Messrs Moody and Sankey are the agents, but the work is God's.
So satisfied, was I of this, that I cordially invited the evangelist to my own parish. The parish church was, of course, closed against lay ministrations, but having a large, iron Church – one of two outposts which we had planted down in rapidly increasing suburbs – I placed this at their disposal. They accepted my invitation and held their meeting on Monday, December 28th at 4 pm. The church seats 650, but we issued 800 tickets. The announcement of their coming had not been made many hours before every ticket was gone and had there been four times as many, they would have all gone. As it was the crowd around the door was immense and we admitted something over 1,100 people. The meeting was a delightful one, and if it had no other effect, it certainly removed every trace of prejudice against our friends from minds that before were prejudiced against them.
One of the most noteworthy features in the movement has been a Sunday morning meeting for workers. Three Sundays running I have made my way into the Free Trade Hall, to this meeting, and I must say it was a sight which I could scarcely realise, to see – on these bitterly cold, dark, foggy mornings; the streets, all frozen and walking almost dangerous – to see the people stealing by twos, and threes, and by fours and fives out of the back streets and courts, making their way to a religious service! And still more strange with the sight, when long before eight, the hour of commencing, one saw all that vast hall and its galleries crowded in every part!
The inquiry meetings too were not a little remarkable. One pictured them in imagination, as scenes of great excitement – crying and shouting – groaning, and waving. On the contrary, in those to which I went, I witnessed nothing whatever of the sort. All was calm and sober. The inquirers, who, towards the end of the movement came to the inquiry room by hundreds, sat each one talking quietly to some Christian minister or lay worker, or kneeling with them in prayer, and then retiring noiselessly one after another from the room. I could not resist the conviction that the work here too was real and that the more we had of such meetings, the better.
As to the actual results of the work under God, of Messrs Moody and Sankey, in Manchester, it is, of course difficult yet to speak. If we talk of what appeared to be the results, we are perhaps met with a shrug of the soldiers and the old adage, "time will tell." Well, we believe time will tell and, tell a tale of much, real and lasting good. That in this, as in every other great religious movement we have ever witnessed, there are camp followers and hangers-on and curious folk. There are hypocrites and professors, as well as self-righteous and self-applauding Pharisees, we do not for a moment deny. But we fully believe the day of judgement will reveal many, many true conversions to God as a result of it. We believe too, that more notably, the Christian people who have attended these meetings will be found to have been stirred up to more earnest, active, zealous work for the Saviour than they have ever yet known. and lastly, it is undeniable that one result of this movement has been to bring together, as they never were brought together before, the various sections of the Christian church. The clergy of the established church and the ministers of all Protestant denominations may now be seen working together for Christ, to an extent which, a few weeks since, we should have declared simply impossible. Well, may we exclaim, "What hath God wrought!" To Him be all the glory
From Dr H P ZIEMANN
One of the most cheering features of the Lord’s work in the city is the indication of growing oneness of thought and sympathy amongst Christians.
On Monday, as many as 300 clergy and missionaries met for a conference and forgetting every party spirit, resolved to stand together in the present revival as workers in the same holy cause, as servants of the same gracious Master. I met Mr Moody just coming from this conference. "I rejoice like a bridegroom" he said with one of his happy smiles, "for today there has been a wedding." And so did many more rejoice. This was especially felt at the noon prayer meeting. The Free Trade Hall was crowded in spite of the most unfavourable weather. There was a wonderful sense of the spirit of joy and praise prevailing. God had put a new song into the mouth of his people, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.“
We trust that this union is not a mere, sitting together on one platform or meeting in one conference room. We had some tokens during the past week that it is the work of the Holy Ghost. The same power which has stirred the city, and led hundreds to the feet of the Saviour, has searched the hearts of God's servants. In many cases there was a humbling before the Lord, treading upon pride, and breaking up of altars, with our own names – not I, but Christ; not my position, but Christ's glory! One could not help noticing from prayers and remarks, and, even in private conversations, that such has been the soul's experience of many during the past few weeks. Said a leading minister to me, “I am ready to preach in any room, or in any pulpit; I have learned that I must preach for the salvation of souls, and not for my church.“ such a spirit must be a mighty impulse for new life and new activity, and will carry a rich blessing wherever it goes.
One evening, I dropped into the inquirers room at a late hour. What a stirring sense of the reality of spiritual life; what a hallowed season of Zion's travail, birth, and prosperity. I think nearly 80 inquiries are in the room, and outside, as many more, anxiously, waiting to be admitted; so anxious to seek the Lord that neither the intense cold of the night, nor the fear to be seen and to be stared at, could move them from their place. One picture in the Inquiries room has specially impressed itself on my memory. A young husband with his wife – she, carrying in her arms, a dear little baby – were eagerly and longingly, listening to the words of a young lady, whose face spoke, clearly that she knew the God of happiness. Happy child! Where could it be safer than in its mother's arms, on the way to Jesus. I heard afterwards that both man and wife found that evening the Saviour and surely He will not forget the little lamb!
The blessing has come to my own house. Two of my servants came a fortnight since from one of the meetings, telling us that they had given themselves to the Lord; and I have had since, no cause to doubt their profession. What was it that had roused them? Nothing that Mr Moody said; but while sitting in the meeting, they felt deeply impressed that they were not Christians. The thought made them uneasy, burdened, and when, after the address, a lady spoke to them of the love of Christ, their hearts were just prepared to receive Him, who can save to the utmost.
We learn in this movement more and more of what importance it is to speak, pointedly with persons, and lay much stress on conversion, and on 'immediate decision;' while on the other hand, one would be very careful not to speak of all who professed anxiety, and then spoke of finding peace, as certainly converted to God. We shall have to look for the fruits. Still, there has been much to encourage hope and very much indeed to rejoice in.
"The Christian," January 14th, 1875.
SUMMARY OF THE VISIT
Messrs. Moody and Sankey left us, for the present at least, on the afternoon of Thursday, the last day of 1874. For four weeks, in the darkest, coldest, and dreariest season of the year, have these men of God toiled among us with an amount of diligence and zeal such as I never saw equalled, far less surpassed; and what has been the result? That is the question that shaped itself in my mind. A complete answer to it would cover page after page of this volume. Only eternity will disclose the amount of good that has been done through their instrumentality. To speak figuratively, we have had summer in the depth of winter. The Sun of Righteousness has shone forth most brightly and genially, even while the material sun has been hidden from view amidst fog and darkness. From the lips of hundreds, the song might have been heard, 'For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our laud.'
In speaking of definite results, so far as these can be ascertained, I may be forgiven if I begin with the ministers of Manchester. If one class has been blessed more than another during these past four weeks, it has been the regular Christian ministry. I am sure I speak the sentiments of all my brethren who have thrown themselves heart and soul into the movement when I say that we have received nothing less than a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost. Our own souls have been quickened. Our faith in the adaptation of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God to the wants and longings of the human spirit has been deepened. Our sense of the magnitude and responsibility of our offices as Heaven's ambassadors, charged with a message of reconciliation and love for the guiltiest of the guilty, and the vilest of the vile, has been greatly increased. We have had demonstrated to us in a way that at once startled and delighted some of us, that, after all, the grand levers for raising souls out of the fearful pit and the miry clay are just the doctrines which our so-called advanced thinkers are trying to persuade the Christian world to discard as antiquated and impotent. These are — the doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus Christ; the doctrine of a living, loving, personal Saviour; and the doctrine of the new birth, by the Spirit and the "Word of Almighty God." One of our ablest ministers, at the noon prayer meeting on the last day of the year, solemnly declared that, whereas the first of these cardinal verities had not been fully realized by him before the services commenced, he now felt it to be a spring of joy and satisfaction to his soul, such as language could hardly express. And, then, how shall I speak of the gladness that has filled our hearts when we heard, as we did almost from day to day, of conversions in our congregations, of parents rejoicing over sons and daughters brought to Jesus, of young men consecrating their manhood and strength to God, and of converts offering themselves for any department of Christian service?
If our dear friend, Mr Moody, had accomplished nothing more than the quickening of the ministers of this great centre of population, and stirring us up to greater devotion to our glorious vocation as 'labourers together with God,' his visit would not have been in vain. Give us a revived ministry, and we shall soon see a revived church.
Next to the Christian ministry, I believe the great army of Christian workers have shared most largely in the blessing. Perhaps the most remarkable, in every respect, of all the services held by the evangelists during their stay here were those on Sunday mornings in the Free Trade Hall. With the exception of one of these mornings, the weather was as severe as any we have had in this exceptionally severe winter, and yet the vast building was densely packed, at the early hour of eight, with audiences presumably composed of Sunday school teachers, tract distributors, district visitors, missionaries, evangelists, etc., drawn not only from the city and borough but from the whole surrounding district. The fruits of these wonderful meetings are already apparent. I question if there be a single Christian agency in all Manchester that has not been the better for them. From that one meeting, as from a great fountainhead, streams of blessing have flowed, are flowing still, and, I believe, will continue to flow, that will spread life and beauty over the whole field of Christian work, such as we have not witnessed here before. Teachers went straight from the hall, in many instances, to their classes, with their souls fired with love for their scholars. Missionaries received fresh impetus and courage for their peculiarly difficult work of going from door to door, knocking for admittance in the name of Jesus. Visitors of tract districts felt stimulated to greater diligence in the discharge of their important duty, as the bearers of those silent monitors from house to house that have so often brought 'light into the dwelling.' Above all, drones felt rebuked and ceased to be drones. Recruits in large numbers were enlisted in the name of our Lord and Kins' o Many who had been languidly sighing out, 'My leanness, my leanness!' were constrained to cry out, 'My laziness, my laziness!' and to add, in all seriousness, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' In short, could our American brethren repeat these addresses in that great hall once every year, they would do for our various Christian organizations what requires to be done periodically for the machinery of our mills and factories — overhaul them completely, renew and improve much of their belting and gearing, and render their operation at once more vigorous and more productive.
The noon prayer meeting has also been largely blessed. Like some old Eastern well, it has been daily visited by hundreds, who have refreshed their souls with the water of life and returned to their businesses and their homes, feeling that the 'sweet hour of prayer' was the sweetest of all the hours of the day. And the requests for prayer that have been presented — who shall number them? who shall even classify them? Above all, who shall say what revelations they afforded of the yearning solicitude, the agonising supplications, the impassioned cries, that exercise the souls of immortal beings, in every relation and condition of life, in this world of distance and darkness? Whatever some may think of this novel feature in the mode of conducting a prayer meeting, I feel sure, from observation and experience, that it has imparted new life and interest to a much-neglected institution. These requests have given reality and intensity to the prayers that were offered. They drew out our sympathies toward our fellow Christians, in connection with trials and wants such as had never entered our minds to conceive. They made us feel that 'one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,' that 'as in water face answereth to face, so doth the heart of man,' that we are all members of the one family called by the one name of Jesus Christ. They did more than that — they gave us glimpses of the fullness that is in our Redeemer, out of which so many thousands may draw, 'and grace for grace ' — 'enough for all, enough for each, enough for evermore.' And in hundreds of cases they have not been in vain, if we may judge by the fact, so frequently brought out at these meetings, that thanksgivings have been publicly made for abundant answers to them, sometimes vouchsafed in very wonderful ways. Parents have stood up and given thanks for the conversion of their children, and children for the conversion of their parents — brothers for the conversion of sisters, and sisters for the conversion of brothers — teachers for the conversion of their scholars, and ministers for the conversion of some even of their church- members. 'And now, Lord, we thank and praise thy glorious name!' 'Praise the Lord, Jerusalem; praise thy God, Zion, for he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.'
The work of God in Great Britain, under Messrs. Moody and Sankey, 1873-1875 : with biographical sketches, by R W Clark, 1875.